About the Knysna Arts Society

About the Knysna Arts Society

The Knysna Arts Society’s Art Gallery is situated in the Old Gaol Complex in Queen Street, Knysna. This jail (Gaol is old English), has been converted to a museum, featuring local and international artifacts and information.

The Knysna Art Society has held nine exhibitions since February 2018 under a new, young and dynamic committee and management:

The 2021 Elected Committee

The Knysna Arts Society has a new committee and portfolio committee members confirmed as follows:

  • Knysna Art Route: Willem de Voogt, Peta Bennett
  • Social media and networking:  Helena Gerber, Peta Bennett
  • Website: Willem de Voogt, Peta Bennett
  • Database / newsletters / membership cards : Willem de Voogt, Peta Bennett, Jan Raats
  • Old Gaol: Gary Davis
  • Available portfolio – Festival Coordinator

A Brief History: Knysna Arts and Crafts Society
By Edith Buddle, former Vice Chairman of the Knysna Art Society.

There is a little house in Montague Street called the Art Centre. The house was built in 1848 by John Sutherland and became the first School in Knysna in 1849. Bishop Grey also held his services there and one of the Rex family was married there. Over time it was owned by several families including the Newdigates, Steeles, and Stuarts.

Russell Stuart, who had built a block of flats on the adjoining ground, wished to demolish the old house. Margret Nortje, who had been looking for a venue to teach art, persuaded him to rent the building out to the art group at a nominal rental. As the numbers of those interested in art grew, the Art Society was established with Dorothy Burger voted in as Chairman. Meetings, exhibitions, art and ceramic lessons were held at the Art Centre. As the membership of the Art Society grew, a larger venue was needed for the Annual Art Exhibition. The Anglican Church kindly agreed to let the Art Society exhibit in the church hall. Screens on castors were wheeled down the road to this venue. These screens are still in the possession of the Knysna Arts and Crafts Society and have proved very useful over the years.

Margaret Parkes and Dorothy Burger, both members of the Museum Society, regularly attended the Museum Conferences where they met many of our top artists and would invite them to open our Annual Art Exhibitions. Among these were Scotnes, Christo Coetzee, Kentridge, Larry Scully and Prof. Brooks. These events were very popular and the sales were good.

Tragically, Dorothy Burger was murdered in her cottage by one of the beggars she so generously fed. The Art Society bought a desk with the legacy Dorothy left to the Art Society. There is a commemorative plaque on the front of the desk

After the new prison was built, the Municipality was contemplating the future of the Old Gaol. The Art Society, with the help of Dale and Jenny Elliot, managed to get an allocation of space in the building.

The Art Society was allocated the old kitchen which had a huge old wood burning stove in place, in addition, there was a storeroom and a cell. There was also an adjacent area consisting of an open courtyard and toilet. In order to clean up, break through the thick walls, tile the floors, clean and paint the walls, cover over the courtyard, remove the old toilet and have picture rails put up, money was needed. Here Dale and Jenny Elliott stepped in and worked tirelessly to help raise the funds needed. A wooden plaque with the names of those who contributed financially to the Art Society is on display in the Gallery. In 1996 the Gallery was finally up and running. Alan Roberts made two beautiful wooden trestle tables for the Gallery and the bentwood chairs were donated to the Art Society by Dale and Jenny, organized an annual Art Auction and Wine Tasting at the local junior school. This was always a very popular and successful event. All the artworks were by members of the Arts and Crafts Society and the funds raised were divided between the school and the Art Society. Eventually the Art Society was able to pay for the roof over what is now the public tea room. The area was used for serving eats and drinks at Art Exhibition openings. The roof was needed because the weather was often unpredictable.

By way of giving back to society for their generosity and support, an annual Youth Exhibition was organised and all the schools in Knysna were invited to take part. This was always a very popular and interesting exhibition!

Knysna Art Route